Dog attacks are traumatic for every victim, regardless of their age or physical abilities. However, dog attacks do seem to involve young children more often than adult victims. Why do dogs attack children more often? The answer likely has to do with the size and typical behaviors of children, specifically, children are small and can be unexpectedly aggressive.
Large dogs with behavioral problems can see themselves as an alpha in a pack or even a predator. Small children near an aggressive dog might trigger a prey-hunting instinct in the dog, causing an attack. Or, if a small child bothers or harms such a canine, it might respond with an attack to try to discipline the child.
Most dog attacks happen only after a dog is injured or provoked, though. Children who are unfamiliar with dogs might not know how to behave around one and how to respect its body and space. Kids are more likely to pull a dog’s tail, ears, paws, etc. to tease it, not realizing they could be provoking the animal to the point of an attack. Continued pestering of the dog could be extremely dangerous, especially if the child is unattended.
What to Do If a Dog Attacks Your Child
Although dog attacks are often in response to provocation, there are still plenty of cases each year of children being attacked by stray or unfamiliar dogs without much warning. It helps to know what to do ahead of time if your child is ever in danger of a dog attack.
To protect your child against an aggressive dog, you should:
- Pick up your child: When approached by an aggressive dog, or if you see one on the path ahead, you should pick up your child if they are small enough to do so. If they are not, then instruct them to stay behind and close to you as best they can.
- Move away slowly: If a dog is thinking of attacking due to a triggered predator-prey instinct, then trying to run away and showing fear could make things worse. Attempt to move slowly away from the dog with minimal engagement. Do not attack a dog first because this will practically guarantee retaliation from it.
- Tell your child to curl up: In a worst-case scenario, an aggressive dog decides to actually attack your child. At that point, tell your child to curl up as tightly as they can while shielding their head, face, and neck with their arms, clothing, and anything they were carrying with them.
- Lift the dog: Pulling a dog off a child after it has bitten them can worsen the lacerations. First, try to lift the hind legs of the dog off the ground. This is easier than picking up the whole dog, even if it is big. With its hind legs off the ground, the dog will be disoriented and also will not have a strong enough foothold to shake or drag your child. If the dog stops attacking your child while it is confused, then your child might have a moment to get away. It can also slow down the dog’s attack enough to allow others in the area to come to your aid.
- Use defensive tools if you have them: If you carry pepper spray for protection against assailants, then you can use it on the dog as well to force it to disengage with your child. You can also use a nearby garden hose and spray the dog on a high setting. Be aware that any aggression you show the dog could be returned to you, so you will have to be prepared to defend yourself, too.
Does a Dog Have to Be Put Down If It Bites a Child?
When a dog bites a child, the conversation to have the dog euthanized is bound to come up. Different states and counties have different rules about when euthanasia is required, though. The dog owner might have the chance to place their pet in a training course to avoid mandatory euthanasia. Or they might allow optional euthanasia of their animal if they are afraid that it could hurt someone again. If you own the dog and it attacked your child, then the decision to put the animal down could ultimately be yours.
Can You Sue If Your Child was Bitten by a Dog?
If your child suffers a dog bite or attack, then you might have an option to sue the dog owner for compensation. Your legal options will also vary depending on where you live. In some states, dog owners can be sued after their dog bites anyone, even when the dog had been friendly to everyone else throughout its life. Compensation awarded in dog bite cases can vary, too, but it could include medical costs to treat your child as well as noneconomic damage for your child’s trauma caused by the violent attack.
If you need legal help after a dog attacked your child in Orange County, California, then call (949) 681-9952 to connect with Gill Law Group, PC. During a no-cost consultation, our attorneys can help you decide if pursuing a dog bite claim is possible in your case.